How is it going with my Danish language?: From Intensive Night Class to Pilates to a Random Bus Driver with a Hidden Purpose


Hvordan er mit dansk sprog? that means “How is my Danish language?”

So far i should say ok, but truly, I wish it goes faster and intense. I have tried to join activity classes to seminars to reading Danish newspaper, but I believe that the absence of work/ full-time study and network with Danish people are the main reasons which slow down my progress in speaking Danish.

My friends at Danish course class told me that my Danish is good, that I learn fast and know many grammatical rules. I only wish they knew that it was my intensive summer course of Norwegian language at the University of Oslo which fundamentally gave me first exposure of Scandinavian grammar. Honestly, without early stage of Norwegian and unfamiliar method in my Danish language school now, I would be left with big blank blank in understanding Danish.

City of Copenhagen entitled free Danish course at four language centers in the city: IA Sprog, Studieskolen (where the two Danish Royals studied: Princess Mary, an Australian native and wife of Prince Frederik, and Alexandra Countess of Frederiksborg , a Hong Kong native and an x-wife of Prince Joachim), CBSI Sprogcenter, and København Sprogcenteret.  In order to get this free Danish course, you need to have a Danish CPR number and get recommendation from your Kommune (city/ area region) as kommune government is the one which will cover your course fee. If you live in Copenhagen, the school will process the recommendation automatically with maximum 1 month waiting line. However, if you live outside Copenhagen, you must get your own recommendation letter from your own komune and bring it on the day of your interview with one of language centers’ study counselors.

I currently enrolled at one of the biggest language schools in Copenhagen, IA Sprog. My decision to come to this school was because it gave quiet fast enrolling procedure and e-mail response, as well as schedule flexibility to move from one class to another due to its large size programs. In general, all of the schools give good teaching quality, only that IA sprog is a little different. This school emphasizes on pronunciation, often without extensive teaching on grammatical rules or composition on the basic level class. As long as you can pronounce the Danish words right, it meets their standard, at least in their first two levels.

Such method has both positive and negative aspects.

Positive because what the school wants is the students being able to speak basic conversation with the Danes, and it is true that in order to conversate in Danish, special skills in emphasizing words and hold the air breath while speaking, namely glothal stop, are important. You can’t say it in a flat rhythm, otherwise you will be welcomed with the word “Hvad?!” [read: hvell] means “What?!” (what? I don’t get what you said).

Negative because student literally can’t make basic good conversation without understanding the fundamental of arranging the right sentences. With low emphasize in grammatical rules (again at least at the very first two levels at IA sprog), such as basic knowledge of differing plural and singular, and the conjugation with the subject, object, adverb, and so on, I sometimes being caught in an unprogressive conversation with the Danes.

Ah, nothing is perfect. When I was at summer school studying Norwegian language, I also complained to have more chance of speaking rather than keep writing “en still” (an essay).

I just moved my Danish class to an intensive night class as I anticipate of being busy in the morning due to work, though I still could not get a full-time job in Denmark until now. Besides, my new teacher, Niels, is very cool (sometimes his coolness makes me goosebumps in a good way like I see a talented man).

The Non-understandable Pilates Class

Having a boring yoga class (in English instruction) for almost 3 weeks in Copenhagen, made me think that I don’t want to spend 1.000 kronor just for a boring relaxation period of almost 20 minutes (i noticed some people slept too in this period). So I switched to a pilates class, though the class has no instruction other than Danish.

I like the pilates class as it is more powerful, but unable to understand much of what the instructor said also meant that I am dependent to the person next to me, in the sense that I have to keep looking on what she/ he does or how she/he breaths. It isn’t easy at all as I keep making mistake movements and the instructor has to come back and forth to me and correct my positions.

I do this class together with my husband, and despite him being a Norwegian with a shared language root with the Danes, he is still struggling to get what the instruction meant. Often, we just ended up seeing each other in a no-clue face. I just wish I could understand Danish better and wish that Copenhageners speak a bit slowly.

A Random Bus Driver with a Hidden Purpose

This Thursday, I was on the way to DTU (Danmarks Tekniske Universitet) to attend workshop on patent, intellectual property, trademark, and so on (I plan to build a start up in the future, so it’s always interesting to know about this stuff in Denmark). The university is located a bit outside the city of Copenhagen, so I had to take special bus going to Lyngby.

I live in Copenhagen and use public transportation regularly, so I have this monthly special card which I can use on all means of public transportations (bus, subway, train, or ferry) within the zones that I registered on the card. Mine has 2 zones on it as I usually travel between Brønshøj to Copenhagen center.

When I entered the 330E bus going to Lyngby, I just showed this card to a bus driver, before he began investigating the card closely and said that i had to pay as my bus card did not cover the zone going to Lyngby.

Yup, I did paid, 24 kronor. However, the story did not finish there. The bus driver started to ask me series of things, and chat with me in Danish. In Danish! Yes, in Danish! I was very happy to have a native Dane willing to talk to me in their own language as so far I have not experienced many Danes willing to talk to a foreigner at first place. They may, but not at the first place, especially with a “non Western countries look” immigrant like me.

He asked me for topics such as  where I came from, to how he knew Indonesia from his travel (which normally will lead to a stereotyping guess of “Oh, are you Muslim?” – this is a bit disturbing me as I do not like to be associated with any religious group in spite of my country of origin. Well, I can understand that we all have stereotype toward people from certain countries. I just want to let foreigners know that coming from Indonesia does not mean that someone has to be a muslim or a religious person). He also asked me which countries I preferred: Norway or Denmark, which I couldn’t really answer as I love them both. When we were entering Lyngby, the bus driver began to act like a tourist guide, introducing buildings we passed by.

He was nice, but it did not seem like he liked the idea of me to sit on the passenger’s seat. I stood next to his steer almost all the way to accommodate his talks. I tried to sit once, on the seat close to him while kept continuing to listen, catering his conversation, but he insisted me to come to him, standing again, while he explained why I still needed to pay.

My senses went to a conclusion that he was somewhat hitting on me when he said that 330E bus only run until 6 PM, and if I had to be at DTU after 6 PM, he could always pick me.

Close to my stop at DTU, he started this weird question:

“Kan jeg har din mobilsnummer?” (Can I have your mobile phone number?)

-______- oOoOoooo….a hidden purpose…

I just answered,

“Jeg er ny in Denmark. Jeg kom her i den September, så har ikke jeg mobilsnummer” (I am new in Denmark. I came here in Septmber, so I don’t have mobile phone number yet).

What an obvious lie, but I don’t think I want to share my mobile phone number to a random bus driver. He was nice and I thanked him for willing to speak Danish with me, despite my slow caught to his fast Danish way of speaking. It is just I got high alert of security when somewhat I just talked to wanting more personal information of mine.

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